Ceratium furca

General Dinoflagellate
Shape Straight with two unequal Close


The back end of a cell. Opposite of anterior.



The apical or antapical extensions found in some armoured dinoflagellates; they contain cytoplasm, are covered in thecal plates and can be hollow or partially solid (Horner 2002).

Size Length 150 - 230 μm, width 30 - 35 μm
Colour Yellow-brown
Connection None (solitary)
Covering Cellulose Close


(plural: thecae) Cell wall. In dinoflagellates, it is composed of cellulose plates within vesicles (Horner 2002).



(plural: flagella) A tail-like projection that sticks out from the cell body and enables movement.



An organelle in the cell that contains the cell pigments (Horner 2002). This is where photosynthesis occurs. A chloroplast is a specialized chromatophore.

Numerous yellow-brown
Lifestyle Close


An organism that is both autotrophic (photosynthesizes or chemosynthesizes) and heterotrophic. That is, it can gain energy both from light (or chemical) energy and also by consuming other organisms. This allows such organisms to take advantage of different environmental conditions.

. Sexual/asexual.


A rapid increase or accumulation of algal populations in an aquatic system. This will likely involve one or a few dominant phytoplankton species. This follows seasonal patterns (i.e., spring, summer or fall bloom) with dominant species being those that are best adapted to the environmental conditions of that time period. Discolouration of the water may be observed because of the algae's pigmentation. Blooms are often green but may be yellow-brown or red depending on the species present.

Blooms due to coastal Close


Water that is enriched in natural or artificial mineral and organic matter, which promotes an abundance of plant life (i.e., algae), and can result in reduced oxygen conditions.

Harmful effects Causes toxic red tides
Habitat Coastal, Close


Of or relating to estuaries.

and oceanic
Geographic Close


Widely distributed; occurring in many parts in the world.

in cold temperate to tropical waters
Seasonal Summer to autumn
Growth Conditions


The dissolved ion content of a body of water. Can be measured in the following units: parts per thousand (PPT or ‰), practical salinity units (PSU), and absolute salinity (g/kg). PPT is measured by weight, denoting the number of parts salt per thousand total parts or a value of 10-3. PSU measures the conductivity of saltwater and compares it in a ratio to a standard KCl solution (because this is a ratio, salinity measured in this way can also be written without units). The newest unit of salinity is absolute salinity, which uses the mass fraction of salt in seawater (g salt per kg seawater) rather than its conductivity (TEOS-20 2010).

13 - 35
Temperature 20 - 34 °C


Peridinium furca Ehrenberg 1836
(Montagnes 2006)


Empire Eukaryota
Kingdom Protozoa
Subkingdom Biciliata
Infrakingdom Alveolata
Phylum Dinoflagellata
Class Dinophyceae
Order Gonyaulacales
Family Ceritiaceae
Genus Ceratium
Species C. furca (Ehrenberg) Claparede and Lachmann 1859

(Guiry and Guiry 2012)


Cells are solitary or found in pairs. This is a mixotrophic dinoflagellate (Kuylensterna and Karlson 2006). C. furca reproduces both sexually and asexually (Scott and Brandt 2011)


Ceratium furca has a wide Close


In diatoms, the portion of the cell wall between the two valves of a cell; made up of intercalary bands (bands closest to the valves) and connecting bands (bands in the middle of the girdle). In dinoflagellates, the equivalent of a cingulum or transverse furrow (Horner 2002).

and a prominent straight Close


(axis, spine) The region of the apex or point. Refers to the most anterior point or region of the cell (HPP 2003).

horn (Montagnes 2006). C. furca also has two unequal posterior horns. The right horn is shorter than the left (Montagnes 2006). There is a thin bar that connects the two horns (Montagnes 2006). C. furca is yellow-brown and has thick thecal plates (Kraberg et al. 2010).


Length: 150 - 230 μm
Width: 30 - 35 μm
(Montagnes 2006)

Similar species

It can be confused with Ceratium hircus, but in C. hircus, the two posterior horns are equal in size (Montagnes 2006).

Harmful effects

Ceratium furca blooms because of coastal eutrophication. Blooms of this species cause toxic red tides (red-brown), damage fish gills and deplete dissolved oxygen causing Close


Describing a condition where there is no available oxygen for primary production. Oxygen may be present in complexed forms that are not available for phytoplankton. A related term is hypoxia, where oxygen is present at very low concentrations.

conditions (Morton et al. 2011).


Mainly coastal, but can also be found in open oceans and in Close


The area where a river meets the ocean. Often characterized by high sediments, high nutrient levels, salinity fluctuations and tidal mixing.

(Horner 2002).


Ceratium furca is a cosmopolitan in cold temperate to tropical waters (Horner 2002). Blooms have been reported in in Japan and the Americas (Montagnes 2006). This species is also found in the Mediterranean and the North Sea (Montagnes 2006).
Blooms in late summer to autumn (Kraberg et al. 2010).

Growth conditions

Ceratium furca tolerates a wide range of salinities and temperatures (Montagnes 2006). Optimal conditions for this species, however, are salinities of 13 - 35 and temperatures of 20 - 34 °C (Montagnes 2006). C. furca is believed to undergo active Close

Diel vertical migration

(DVM) A daily vertical migration through the water column. Most commonly, this is used to describe zooplankton that spend their days at depth to avoid predators and spend their nights at the surface feeding on phytoplankton. This is called nocturnal DVM and the opposite (surface during the day, maximum depth during the night) is called reverse DVM (Selph 2009).

diel vertical migration
(DVM) as an ecological adaptation to avoid high light levels at the surface during the day (Baek et al. 2011). This species is also believed to have an advantage over other Ceratium species in phosphorous-limited environments (Morton et al. 2011).

Environmental Ranges

Depth range (m): 0 - 470
Temperature range (°C): -1.405 - 26.001
Nitrate (μmol L-1): 0.135 - 28.280
Salinity: 13.035 - 37.775
Oxygen (mL L-1): 4.705 - 8.041
Phosphate (μmol L-1): 0.048 - 2.337

Silicic acid

A general term to describe chemical compounds containing silicon, oxygen and hydrogen with a general formula of [SiOx(OH)4-2x]n. Diatoms polymerize silicic acid into biogenic silica to form their frustules (Azam and Chisholm 1976).

(μmol L-1): 0.648 - 59.039
(EOL 2012)

Bloom characteristics

Ceratium furca blooms colour water to red-brown. In Pago Pago Harbour, American Samoa, high concentrations of up to 9,200 cells L-1 were recorded when total surface N was 1.2 mg L-1 in 2007. This was initiated by fertiliser runoff from nearby farms (Morton et al. 2011).


Baek, S. H., Hoshin, H., Woo-Choi, H., Shimode, S., Hwang, O. M., Shin, K. and Kim, A. Y. 2011. Ecological Behaviour of the dinoflagellate Ceratium furca in Jangmok Harbor of Jinhae Bay, Korea. Journal of Plankton Research. 33(12): 1842-1846.

Encyclopedia of Life (EOL). 2012. Ceratium furca (Ehrenberg) Claparede and Lachmann 1859. http://eol.org/pages/903700/details. Accessed 19 Jan 2012.

Guiry, M. D. and Guiry, G. M. 2012. Ceratium furca (Ehrenberg) Claparede and Lachmann 1859. http://www.algaebase.org/search/species/detail/?species_id=52149. Accessed 19 Jan 2012.

Horner, R. A. 2002. A Taxonomic Guide To Some Common Phytoplankton. Biopress Limited, Dorset Press, Dorchester, UK. 200.

Kraberg, A., Baumann, M. and Durselen, C. D. 2010. Coastal Phytoplankton Photo Guide for Northern European Seas. Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil, Munchen, Germany. 203.

Montagnes, D. 2006. Guide to Harmful Phytoplankton. http://www.liv.ac.uk/hab/Data%20sheets/c_furc/c_furc.pdf. Accessed 19 Jan 2012.

Morton, S. L., Shuler, A., Paternoster, J., Fanolua, S. and Vargo, D. 2011. Coastal eutrophication, land use changes and Ceratium furca (Dinophyceae) blooms in Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa 2007-2009. Chinese Journal of Oceanology and Limnology. 29(4): 790-794.

Kuylensterna, M. and Karlson, B. 2006. Ceratium furca (Ehrenberg) Claparède et Lachmann 1858. http://www.smhi.se/oceanografi/oce_info_data/plankton_checklist/dinoflagellates/ceratium_furca.htm. Accessed 18 Jan 2012.

Scott, F. and Brandt, S. 2011. Ceratium fusus (Ehrenberg) Dujardin 1841. http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=109951. Accessed 03 April 2012.

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